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Can you cook with chicken marinade?

Cooking with chicken marinade can add great flavor to chicken dishes. Marinades are liquid mixtures that are used to soak and tenderize meat before cooking. Chicken soaks up the marinade like a sponge, allowing the flavors to really penetrate the meat. This results in juicy, flavorful chicken that has absorbed the aromatic spices, herbs, acids, oils, and other ingredients in the marinade.

Some common ingredients found in chicken marinades include:

  • Oil – Vegetable, olive, sesame, etc.
  • Acid – Lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar, yogurt
  • Herbs – Rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, cilantro
  • Spices – Garlic, onion, pepper, cumin, chili powder
  • Flavorings – Soy sauce, mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce

The oil helps keep the chicken moist and tender. The acid tenderizes the chicken and allows the flavors to penetrate deeper. Fresh herbs provide aromatic flavor. Spices add warmth, depth and heat. Things like soy sauce provide umami.

Marinating is a simple process of combining your desired ingredients, pouring over raw chicken pieces in a zip top bag or baking dish, and letting sit for 30 minutes up to overnight. The longer you marinate, the more flavor development.

Benefits of Cooking with Chicken Marinade

Cooking chicken with a marinade provides several benefits:

Enhanced flavor

This is the primary reason to marinate. Allowing chicken to soak in a flavorful liquid gives it much more taste than plain chicken alone. The herbs, spices, oil and acid in marinades impart aromatic, tangy, savory and spicy flavors to chicken.

Tender and juicy meat

Acids in marinades, like lemon juice, vinegar and yogurt, not only flavor the chicken but also tenderize it. The acids break down tough collagen fibers. This results in a more tender, delicate texture. The oil and moisture from the marinade keeps chicken nice and juicy after cooking.


Chicken marinades can have endless flavor combinations based on the ingredients used. Italian marinades may contain basil, oregano, garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Greek marinades can have lemon, oregano, yogurt and olive oil. Indian tandoori marinades use spices like turmeric, cumin, garlic, ginger and yogurt. The possibilities are limitless.


Marinating chicken is one of the easiest ways to infuse a lot of flavor with minimal effort. Simply combine the ingredients, pour over the chicken, refrigerate, and let the marinade do its work. Much easier than meticulously seasoning or brining chicken.

Types of Chicken Marinades

There are a few basic types of marinades that pair well with chicken:

Citrus marinades

These marinades use citrus juices as the acid component. Lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit juices brighten up the flavors of chicken. Citrus marinades often include olive oil, garlic, herbs like rosemary or thyme, onions, wine, and spices. The zesty flavors are fantastic on grilled chicken.

Yogurt marinades

Plain yogurt makes an excellent base for chicken marinades. It provides acidity to tenderize along with creamy tangy flavor. Yogurt marinades often include spices like cumin, turmeric, coriander, garlic, ginger, and onion. They are very popular in Indian and Greek cooking.

Soy or Asian marinades

Soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, ginger and garlic flavor these Asian-inspired marinades. Additional ingredients like brown sugar, chili peppers, lime, cilantro and red peppers can be used. They pair especially well with satay or stir fry dishes.

Herb marinades

For fresh herbal flavor, try a marinade focused on herbs like basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley, and chives. Olive oil, garlic, lemon, mustard and pepper are often included to complement the herbs. This marinade is excellent for grilling.

Jamaican jerk marinade

Jerk seasoning offers a spicy, robust marinade. Primary jerk ingredients include allspice berries, cloves, cinnamon, scallions, thyme, garlic, brown sugar, lime and hot peppers. It brings Caribbean flavor to grilled chicken.

Wine or beer marinades

For a boozy marinade, use wine (especially red) or beer as the acidic liquid base. Garlic, onion and a wide range of herbs flavor this type of marinade. Beer brings great flavor to barbecue chicken.

Marinating Tips for Best Results

Follow these tips when marinating chicken for maximum flavor and food safety:

  • Use a nonreactive dish – Glass, stainless steel or plastic containers won’t react with acidic ingredients.
  • Submerge chicken fully in marinade.
  • Marinate in refrigerator, not on counter.
  • Marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to 12-24 hrs.
  • Turn chicken occasionally to marinate evenly.
  • Pat chicken dry before cooking so it browns well.
  • Discard used marinade – Do not re-use.


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about cooking with chicken marinade:

Should you bake, grill or pan fry marinated chicken?

All cooking methods work well. Grilling over high heat and baking in the oven are best for getting a nice char. Pan frying can also be done. The marinade will keep chicken juicy.

Does marinated chicken need to be skinless and boneless?

For best absorption, skinless boneless breasts or thighs work well, but skin-on and bone-in chicken can also marinate effectively. Slash the skin so marinade can penetrate.

Can you over-marinate chicken?

Yes, it’s possible to marinate too long, which can make chicken mushy. For best texture, marinate no longer than 24 hours. 12 hours or less is usually sufficient time.

Is it necessary to use salt in a marinade?

Salt isn’t a must, but it helps the chicken absorb more flavor. Use a moderate amount, as too much can make the marinade overly salty.

Should marinade be boiled, simmered or cooked?

Never boil or cook a marinade before putting raw chicken in it. Only bring marinade to a boil after pouring over cooked chicken to make a sauce.

Simple Marinated Chicken Recipes

Here are 3 easy chicken marinade recipes to get you started cooking marinated chicken:

Lemon Herb Chicken Marinade

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl. Pour over 1-2 lbs chicken pieces and marinate 30 min – 2 hrs. Grill, bake or pan sear.

Yogurt Tandoori Chicken

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp tandoori seasoning
  • 2 tsp each cumin, turmeric, paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix together all ingredients. Marinate chicken thighs or breasts for at least 2 hours. Grill on high heat until charred and cooked through.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp jerk seasoning
  • 1 tsp each thyme, allspice
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Combine all ingredients to make the marinade. Pour over chicken and marinate overnight. Grill over medium-high heat for tasty jerk chicken.


Marinating chicken is one of the tastiest ways to add big, bold flavor. A marinade’s acid, oil, herbs and spices infuse chicken with lots of extra taste. Marinated chicken turns out incredibly moist and tender. While marinating does require some advance planning, it takes little active effort. A quick marinade can be whisked together in 5 minutes. Let chicken soak for as little as 30 minutes to overnight. Then simply cook the chicken using your preferred method until it is done. Grilling, baking or pan searing are all great options. With endless marinade possibilities, from Greek yogurt to Indian tandoori, the flavor options are limitless. Give one of the simple recipes a try for your next flavorful chicken dinner.